I had the pleasure of sitting in on the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra performance in New York this past weekend, which included the full original soundtrack from the vast and complicated Kingdom Hearts franchise. The performance was held up in Washington Heights at the United Palace Theater which, unlike its downtown brethren, has not been stripped of all its internal glory. One of the major disappointments at a Broadway show in New York is just how poorly retrofitted the theaters are. You can usually still see the gorgeous crown moldings, painted frescoes, and old world charm, but its been hastily updated with massive light and sound rigs that just serve to ruin the majesty.
The United Palace was spared almost all of that, which made it an interestingly fitting location to sit down and watch a video game soundtrack orchestral performance. Behind the full orchestra was a large projector screen that featured parts of various Kingdom Hearts cutscenes from all of the games. Yes, there were even a few moments pulled from the Chain of Memories trailers. But the way the cutscenes were added to the orchestra was interesting. Nothing went in chronological order – either by the incredibly convoluted internal timeline – or by physical release date, which left us with something of a hodgepodge of game graphics. Seeing pieces of the original Kingdom Hearts up against Dream Drop Distance really did leave you thinking about how poorly the original game has aged.
It also meant that people who haven’t played the series – or have simply not played all of it- were absolutely baffled. I brought a friend with me who came in as a total outsider, and while he enjoyed the music, had absolutely no idea of what was going on.
And now that I think about it, I’m not sure I do either.
All I can say for sure is that the crowd absolutely loved the visual accompaniment, fiercely cheering any time a favorite character would pop up on screen. Predictably, there were loud shrieks anytime Cloud, Squall, or both showed up in cutscenes. One thing you don’t expect when going to the orchestra is for there to be rabid screaming involved at any point in the show, but that’s what you get when you pair a night at the theater with video game fans.
And don’t get me started on all the cosplay. The image of cosplayers of all levels of cosplaying skill milling around the over-crowded, rather gaudy lobby of the United Palace is something I will never be able to unsee. And I can’t bring myself to be too mad about it.